Financial Times

Virtusa among finalists for US Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence
By Dilshani Samaraweera

Virtusa Sri Lanka has been selected as one of the 11 finalists for the US Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence. The company was nominated for the award by the US ambassador for Sri Lanka, Robert O. Blake, on the basis of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) work in Sri Lanka.

The award recognises corporate excellence in American companies that are operating in other countries. Potential candidates for the award have been nominated by American ambassadors around the world since 1999. However, this is the first time a US company operating in Sri Lanka has made it into the list of finalists.

In an interview with The Sunday Times FT, the US Ambassador said Virtusa was nominated because of the company’s contributions towards developing IT skills in Sri Lanka, and for its work in developing an effective disaster recovery system.

“I nominated Virtusa, first, because it is a very successful American company here. Secondly, because they exemplify the idea of good corporate citizenship and the importance of giving back, which is very important in America,” said Mr Blake.

“They are very involved in tsunami relief activities and they are also very active in helping to bridge the digital divide,” said the ambassador. As part of its CSR activities in Sri Lanka, Virtusa has developed a disaster recovery system called Sahana that has now been made available for free usage.

“One of the CSR activities was in building the Sahana system. It has now been submitted to the open source community and is available for anyone to use, free of charge. It was used in Pakistan and recently in China,” said Keith Modder, EVP Managing Director, Asian Operations of Virtusa.

The company also has a number of ongoing programmes to help develop IT skills in the island. Sri Lanka’s total turnout of computer science graduates is estimated at around 3,000 persons per year. However, with the country looking at developing IT oriented services for export, the demand is on the rise.Virtusa’s IT oriented programmes are aimed at developing IT skills to meet the growing local demand.

Virtusa’s Campus Reach programme for instance, is aimed at helping local universities develop IT curricula that are relevant to global requirements. The company is presently working with a number of local universities that already have active IT programmes, to improve degree courses. The company is also doing a parallel internship programme to develop English and communication skills and provide a corporate orientation for graduates.

“We have trained around 700 people through the internship programme. They come to work at Virtusa for about 6 months to 1 year, and we also employ some of them,” said Mr Modder. To help bridge the digital divide, Virtusa is providing IT training facilities in rural schools. The company says the programme is already active in 20 rural schools, mainly in the Southern Province.

Virtusa also has a work study programme that allows university students to work part-time at the company to develop practical, employment oriented skills. Virusa has been operating in Sri Lanka for 12 years and currently has a workforce of around 1,000. The company says it will continue to expand its activities in the country.

The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will announce the 2008 winner of the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence in November.

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